The Pittsburgh Penguins won Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal Series against the New York Rangers in stunning fashion. The goaltender battle that was the biggest hype by media members and fellow bleacher writers surprisingly fell by the wayside. Neither goaltender mimicked his first round performance tonight, but it was King Henry who gave up the final tally of the game: a Sidney Crosby slapshot that deflected into the net off of the shin pad of Evgeni Malkin.
Early in the game, all indications were that King Henry would silence the Penguins' potent offensive attack, as Lundqvist stopped 8 of 8 early shots from the Pens. On the back side of the halfway mark of the first period, Ryan Whitney headed to the box for high sticking. On the ensuing power play, former Penguin Marty Straka got the puck below the goal line, wristed it toward the front of the net, and a fortuitous bounce off the skate blade of Sergei Gonchar made it 1-0 Rangers. The first period would end 1-0, with Lundqvist looking very solid between the pipes.
Early in the second, things began to look gloomier for Pens' fans. Chris Drury deflected a Marc Staal slap shot from the point past Marc-Andre Fleury. Official Ron Koharski got on the horn with the War Room in Toronto to review the goal. The replay was inconclusive, and the goal counted. 2-0 Rangers.
Sean GAYvery added his fourth goal of the playoffs, about a minute and a half later, making it 3-0 Rangers. Avery streaked down the right wing, used Brooks Orpik as a screen on Fleury, and buried a wrist shot into the back of the cage. Before celebrating with his teammates, Avery paused near the far boards to give the VOGUE photographers in the front row a good shot of his stunning physique.
Then, something happened. VERSUS broadcaster Joe Beninati gave the Penguins their first glimpse of hope.
J.B: "The Penguins have never come back from a 3 goal deficit to win a game this season."
Somewhere, Gary Thorne falls out of his lazyboy and endures four consecutive seizures.
The Pens responded, as Jarkko Ruutu shuffled a puck toward the front of the net, off of Michael Rozsival's skate, and behind Lundqvist. 3-1 Rangers.
The Penguins have had a reputation of scoring consecutive goals very quickly throughout the season, and tonight was no different. Just 14 seconds removed from Ruutu's tally, Sidney Crosby whipped a wicked backhand pass to the front of the net, onto the stick of Pascal Dupuis. Dupuis put it where grandma keeps the peanut butter: top shelf. 3-2 Rangers.
Both goaltenders stood their ground, and the second frame ended 3-2 in favor of the Blueshirts.
Early in the third period, Pascal Dupuis found himself more alone in front of the Rangers' net than Sean Avery at a heterosexual affairs meeting in downtown NYC. Dupuis fumbled the puck under his feet, and Lundqvist was able to make the save. (Colby Armstrong buries that puck.)
The Pens kept coming, and were rewarded when Marian Hossa threw a puck toward the net that went through the skates of Gomez and beat Lundqvist to tie the game at 3.The Pens once again acted quickly on their new found momentum, scoring just 20 seconds later as Evgeni Malkin setup an easy tap-in for Petr Sykora. 4-3 Pens.
Not to be outdone by his former team, Jaromir Jagr remembers that he is still a professional hockey player, beats Gonchar to a loose puck behind the Penguins' cage, taps it in front to Scott Gomez, who buries the puck top shelf past Fleury to tie the game once again. 4-4.
Almost 8 minutes passed, and the teams remained deadlocked. Fans of both teams were mentally preparing themselves for a triple OT letdown, when Martin Straka decides to take the worst penalty of his career when he wraps up Sidney Crosby in open ice to give the Penguins a late power play.
Crosby, "acting like the kid he truly is" (P.Sullivan) took charge on the ensuing power play. With just over 20 seconds left on the man advantage, Sid takes a pass from Ryan Whitney, and slaps a shot towards the net. Somehow, the puck finds its' way past Lundqvist, as the Igloo explodes a-la the final scenes of Sudden Death. After review, the shot was shown to have been deflected off of the leg of Evgeni Malkin in front of the net. Malkin gets credited with the goal. 5-4 Pens.
The Rangers pull Lundqvist in a last ditch effort to send the game into OT, but no dice. Pens win Game 1, 5-4.
Notes: This win marked the Penguins' first win when trailing by three goals in a playoff game since the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks. Just ask Dominik Hasek about that game, he will have plenty of time to reminisce while he’s riding pine for the Wings.
Bring on the "Crosby dove on the Straka call" accusations. Straka looked like Michael Strahan wrapping up Ben Jokelisberger for a sack on that play.
The Pens put Sean Avery on his back more times than the editor of VOGUE. (His goal was sweet though.)